Here’s another John U. Rees posting in FB group cited in previous posts:
John U. Rees posted in MHAU - 1600 to 1788.
John U. Rees
May 25 at 10:20am
"`We ... got ourselves cleverly settled for the night': Soldiers' Shelter on Campaign During the War for Independence,"
Part I, "`Oznabrig tabernacles’: Tents in the Armies of the Revolution"
(See below for article link and contents.)
“Put our Men into barns …”
The Vagaries of Shelter
Shelter types could vary greatly over a short time period. In the spring of 1782 the 2nd Rhode Island Regiment marched from Philadelphia, where they resided in barracks, to join the main army at West Point, New York. Towards the end of the first day they encamped at Bensalem, Pennsylvania. The next day, 30 May, Lieutenant Jeremiah Greenman wrote, "the General Beat at day Break when the Tents was struck and loaded into the Waggons ... [after a series of marches and halts] crossed the Delaware, when 6 Companys incamped. the other 3 in barns &c, for want of Tents." 31 May: "....proceeded to Rockey hill where incamped by Millstone River." The regiment continued on through New Jersey and into New York, during which time they "incamped" every night. After reaching the Hudson River on 8 June the troops "incamped in Order to wait [for]... Orders wether to cross the River or tarry on the West Side — at two oClock received Orders to cross the river. at 4 oClock the Genl. beat when we struck our Tents & proceeded on Our March to Kings Ferry where we crossed the North [Hudson] River. Sent our Bagage up by Water / came one Mile & lay in the Woods / very Cold."4
On 24 June 1782 the 2nd Rhode Island's light company was "ordered from the Regiment to go on the Lines"; five days later Lieutenant Greenman was ordered to join the company to replace a sick officer.5 The twelve days he served with the detachment give an idea of the light infantry's living conditions during this period of the war.
S 30. [June 1782] This Morning at day break sett off from Camp ... [and] join'd... the Light Company from our Regiment — the whole Detachment under Command of Major Knap from the Massachusetts Line tarried near the River 'till 8 oClock in the Evening when marched half a Mile & took post oposite a ford ... laying on our Arms—
M 1. [July. On this day Greenman was] order'd to take a party of Men and go down towards the Enemies lines to get what inteligence lay in my Power... proceeded on to Tarry Town Meating House where arrived at 12 oClock at Night... and lay on our arms.
T 2... .came to Phillipsburrough ... from where came 6 miles & took post in a field nigh the Road laying on our arms where continued all night—
W 3. ...came to Pines Bridge where join'd my Company and continued 'till Evening, when ... took post on a hill in froont of the Bridge ... on a hill in a thicket of woods.
T 4. [After crossing the river] took Post on a hight... where continued all Night...
F 5. [After being on guard] join'd the Detachment ... one mile up river from the bridge where tarryed (laying on our arms) till 8. oClock in the Evening when took post on a Hill in a thicket of woods ... where continued (laying on our arms) all night...
S 6... .marched to the Bridge ... made a halt, (on account of a sivear squall of wrain)... marched toward the White Plains ... hear put our Men into barns and made a halt on account of the rain.
S 7. .. .proceeded to North Caswell where took post in an Orchard—
M 8. ... we proceeded on for pines Bridge ... put our Men into a Barn on account of rain, where they continued till Sun set, when came 3 milesup the road towards Crumbpond Meatinghouse, where took post in an Orchard but ... [it] began to rain...
T 9. the Detachment continuing at the same post 'till the evening when came half a Mile & took post in an orchard...
W 10. ...in the Evening marched a quater of a Mile & took post on a hill in a thicket of woods when lay on our arms...
T 11... .Major Darby... came with a Detachment to releive us. after being releived proceeded on our march towards Camp as far as Crumb Pond where halted & lay in an Orchard.
F 12. ... came to our Regiment [near West Point] in the after noon when I joined my Company.6
On 21 August Greenman's regiment received orders "to relieve the Troops on the Lines at Dobbs Ferry, Stonny and Virplanks Point." Next day, "...the Tents were struck and carried to the Shore to be put into a Vessel which I pr[o]cureed yesterday to carry the bagage down the river in — the Assembly beet at 5 & soon after the March commenced... we left two Companys one at Virplanks & the other at Stonny Point, we then proceeded on with 6 companys as far as Kearkiat where halted & put our men into Barns." On the 23rd, "Soon after [5 o'clock] ... began our march ... proceeded ... within a half mile of the Block House [at Dobbs Ferry] where halted & lay in an orchard all night." 24 August: ".. .came to the Block house at Dobbs ferry, where releiv'd the 1st. Connecticut Regiment."7
"We Lay in the open world"8
Troops Without Shelter on Campaign
Campaign living conditions in North America were rigorous and often primitive. Terrain and weather varied greatly in areas where military operations occurred and rudimentary road systems made transport of army supplies difficult at best. From the hills and coastal plains of New Jersey to the wilderness of northern New York and Canada, through the cultivated fields and woodlands of Pennsylvania and the Carolina forests and swamps the armies fought, marched, and camped. Over crude byways, farmers paths, and dirt roads the troops moved with their baggage trains, carrying, in the best of times, much of what they needed.
Because of the need for rapid movement or other exigencies, soldiers often had to do without tents and make do with what was available. For officers and privates alike this often meant sleeping in the open. On the frontier this occurred frequently. Lieutenant Samuel Shute noted one such occasion in July 1779: "We marched to Shawney flatts [near Wyoming, Pennsylvania], got a little dinner, took a sociable buck dance, then proceeded to the falls.... At 8.P.M. took a bite of beef & bread a drink of grog and retired to rest. Colo. DeHart, Genl. Hand & myself slept together in the open air, but with a canteen of spirits at our head."9
Even in settled areas there were times when no shelter was possible or even desirable. In September 1777, Virginian John Chilton noted, "This day I was Capt. of the Rere Guard." After passing through Christiana, Delaware, he and his men "Marched not more than a Mile, when we stopt till after sunset, when we were relieved and joined the regt. [and] lay in the woods without Pitching Tents." During the 1778 New Jersey campaign one of Washington's aides related, "I cannot say that the fatigues of our late march has been of any disservice to my constitution — in sleeping in the open fields — under trees exposed to the night air and all changes of the weather I only followed the example of our General.... When I joined his Excellency's suite I gave up soft beds — undisturbed repose — and the habits of ease and indulgence... for a single blanket — the hard floor — or the softer sod of the fields — early rising and almost perpetual duty." Near Morrisania, New York, in May or June 1781, Sergeant Joseph Martin and his men "lay all night upon the ground which we had occupied during the day. I was exceedingly tired, not having had a wink of sleep the preceding night, and had been on my feet during the last twenty-four hours, and this night, to add to my comfort, I had to take charge of the quarter guard. I was allowed to get what rest I could consistently with our safety. I fixed my guard, placed two sentinels, and the remainder of us laid down. We were with our corps, who were all by dark snug in the arms of Morpheus. The officers slept under a tree near us."10
Detachments of soldiers in close proximity to the enemy, especially those serving as light infantry, usually traveled with little baggage, and often lacked shelter. In September 1777, two nights after the Battle of Brandywine, as the rest of the army moved towards the Schuylkill River, Captain Enoch Anderson was with a detachment shadowing the British army north of Darby Creek in Pennsylvania. "Night came on [13 or 14 September], there was no house we dare go into; — we had no tents. I had no blanket even and must make no fire. Some had blankets however. The night was very cold. I kept myself tolerably comfortable by walking about, but was very sleepy and could not sleep for the cold."11
part I, "`Oznabrig tabernacles’: Tents in the Armies of the Revolution":
1. “Put our Men into barns …”: The Vagaries of Shelter
2. "We Lay in the open world": Troops Without Shelter on Campaign
3. "State of Marquees and Tents delivered to the Army...": Varieties of Tentage
a. British Common Tents
b. American Common Tents
c. Horseman’s and Cavalry Tents
d. Wall Tents
f. Bell Tents for Sheltering Arms
g. Dome, Square, and Hospital Tents
h. French Tents
4. "Return of Camp Equipage": More on Tents.
A. Illustrations of French Tents
B. The Common Tent as Illustrated in a German Treatise
C. How to Fold a Common Tent for Transport (from a German Treatise)
D. Interior Views of Common Tents: Sleeping Arrangements in Three Armies
E. A Melange of Marquees: Additional Images of Officers’ Tents
F. Encampment Plans: Continental Army, Hessian, and British
1. Friedrich Wilhelm de Steuben, Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States Part I. (Philadelphia, Pa.: Styner and Cist, 1779)
2. “A Correct View of the Hessian Camp on Barton Farm near Winchester … by Willm. Godson, Land Surveyor to the Right Worshipful the Corporation of Winchester occupé le 16 Juillet 1756”
3. Lewis Lochee, An Essay on Castrametation (London, 1778)
(British treatise on tents and encampments.)
4. Humphrey Bland, A treatise of military discipline: in which is laid down and explained the duty of the officer and soldier, through the several branches of the service. The 8th edition revised, corrected, and altered to the present practice of the army (London: B. Law and T. Caslon, 1762).
Military Collector & Historian, vol. 49, no. 3 (Fall 1997), 98-107.
To Join the Company of Military Historians click here